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King, Queen, Knave: 09/02/08
King, Queen, Knave by Vladimir Nabokov is one of his earliest novels, written and published originally in Russian in 1928 as Korol', dama, vale and translated and heavily edited in 1968. I read the English translation.
The novel follows Franz Bubendorf's travels to Berlin to work in his "Uncle's" department store. The uncle, Kurt Dreyer, is actually his mother's cousin. He meets his family on the train into Berlin. Martha (his "aunt") and he are instantly smitten and they quickly start up an affair, taking advantage of Dreyer's late nights at the office.
King, Queen and Knave has some of the same elements that I loved in Lolita (1955) but it lacks the refinement of the later novel. Nabovok uses the urban journey to introduce and define his characters, something he perfects in the road trip in the middle third of Lolita. With the affair taking place under Dreyer's nose, there is also the awkward sexual humor. Of course, as all three members are adults, the affair is nothing compared to the relationship between Humbert Humbert and Lolita.